Interview by David Araneda
The German Thrash Legends DESTRUCTION have recently released their newest studio album entitled “Born to Perish” via Nuclear Blast. After the replacement of long-term drummer Vaaver by Randy Black (ex-Primal Fear, ex-Annihilator) and the addition of second guitarist Damir Eskic, this is their first record to feature them as a four-piece since their comeback in 1999. The album has received instant appraisal from fans and critics in the last few days.
We had the opportunity to discuss in detail with the always charming bassist/vocalist and songwriter Schmier about the line-up changes, the current state of the band, and his views of the world and the metal scene. Schmier also shared some stories from his travels to South America, the upcoming Destruction tour, and his plans to go on the road with the Big Four of German Thrash Metal in the near future.
We leave you the full transcript (slightly modified to improve readability) of the interview below as well as the original audio version on YouTube.
David: Hi Schmier, I’m David from Metal Shock Finland and Powermetal.cl. How are you doing today?
Schmier: I’m doing good. We’ve had a busy week, you know, the album just came out. Last weekend we played in festivals and today we had a bass playthrough release, and there’s a lot of stuff to do at the moment. So, it’s a little overwhelming at one point, so many reactions in a moment. But the album is doing fantastic, so it couldn’t be any better.
David: What kind of feedback have you gotten from the fans over this weekend?
Schmier: We’ve had amazing feedback. We’ve been on two big festivals and people reacted amazingly, the CDs were sold out, the vinyls were sold out. People really dig the album, they love it. It’s the best reactions we’ve had in 20 years or so. It’s actually crazy, I just got the news that on release day we were on the Trendcharts place number twelve in Germany. We haven’t been that high ever in history, that’s like the highest we have been entering Trendcharts. It’s also a very good sign that people are really excited about the album. I mean, of course, nowadays you also have Instagram and Facebook, where people post pictures with the album, and it shows the excitement, you know. It’s nice to see that.
David: One of the main differences of the album is, of course, the new lineup with two guitars and a new drummer. Can you discuss a little bit the contribution of Randy and Damir to the sound of Destruction?
Schmier: We made a mistake once in 1986, when we had two new members. We gave the two new members too much space and it ruined the band basically. It sounds bad, but that’s what the way it was, you know. So, it took us a long time to find trust in the idea of bringing a second guitar player. But this time we brought people that we know, people that we like, people that didn’t wanna put themselves in the position of being a songwriter or something right away, you know. We have one clear thing, and it’s that Mike and I are the songwriters of the band. We write the songs, the other guys are open to contribute, you know. We keep some space, we don’t tell them what to play, they can be themselves on this album, and I think it worked pretty well. For two songs, Randy wrote all drum patterns in advance and we kind of made songs out of drum patterns basically, so it was a different approach to songwriting, so that was very interesting. And Damir had a lot of space for his solos, leads, overdubs, extra guitar harmonies. We were pushing him, you know, he was actually the one who was afraid to play too much. But we wanted the new guys to be a part of this, and that happens only when they get the freedom to play, and that’s what we did.
David: Yeah, but although they don’t write songs, Damir is a more technical guitar player, and maybe Randy comes from a more technical school. Do you think that this could affect the overall sound of the band?
Schmier: I don’t think so, no. Vaaver was a much more technical player than Randy, he was more into Jazz and stuff. Randy is very much a rock player, he’s played many different rock and metal styles. Damir’s style of soloing is what we were looking for, somebody who can shred, because we already have a riff master in Mike. What we needed was somebody that can do something extra on the solos, and that’s what Damir does. And this, mixed together with very solid songs, the songs are really catchy this time, they were thought for the live situation. I think that’s a big difference with the last albums, something we already learned in “Under Attack”, that sometimes less is more. It’s all about the song at the end, it’s not about every musician showing off. It’s about writing good songs that people want to hear live, you know. And that’s something I think “Born to Perish” really has. All of those ten songs would be great live songs, I think.
David: Definitely. Do you have any favorite ones in the new album?
Schmier: It’s very difficult, you know. The way the album starts, I think we put some favorites at the beginning but also at the end there’s some very strong material. So, for me it’s very difficult to say. I have a special bond with certain songs that I wrote, or special lyrics, you know. The lyrics for “Inspired by Death” are about some friends that died last year or beginning of this year also, so it’s a very personal song, it means a lot to me. I think also that song turned out very cool, because it’s very old-school, very easy, so it’s a special song. But I also like “Betrayal”, it’s maybe my favorite from the songs I wrote. And I like “Butchered for Life”, because it’s a different song, you know. It has this “Reject Emotions” feeling with the acoustic guitars, something we hadn’t done for more than twenty years, this is something special for me again. We could do the whole twist with two guitars, being a little bit more progressive, so it sticks out of the rest of the record. But I also like a song like “Rotten”, because of the triplet feeling, it has a different kind of vibe than the rest of the album, which is more like trashy in-your-face and offbeat style. And I think there’s a lot of little things in the album that you may not hear when you listen to it for the first time, but they show off by later listening. It’s very difficult for me to say which is my favorite song. Of course, the title track “Born to Perish” sticks out too, because it stands for the album basically.
David: You mentioned your lyrics, and they’re very important to you. Since the beginning of Destruction you’ve been very critical towards politicians, powerful people and religion. Have you seen any change happen during this 30 plus years of your career, or are we basically facing the same problems?
Schmier: It’s gotten worse, you know (laughs), it’s such a bad thing. When we wrote “Curse the Gods”, all this religious bullshit was not as bad as it is today, now we have religious wars again. And as you can see, the politicians got worse too, because we have more wars in the world now than in the last 50 years. We have a lot of critical situations of world economies, we have a lot of crazy politics in office now. Look at America, look at Hungary. In many countries, the conservative right-wing parties are leading the country, so it actually got worse. But it’s coming to an end, you know. What I realized with this album, when I wrote the lyrics and when I watch the world, is that the capitalistic system is coming to an end. People more and more start to realize it’s not working, and even big world economists are actually improving that by now. And I don’t know if I will still be able to witness this with my own eyes, but this capitalistic system will fail. It has failed already, and it will come to an end in the next years. People have to find something new, I like progressive ideas. I think Finland is a country that’s actually very progressive in that way, one of the first countries in the world to start this kind of minimum wage type of thing, where people get a certain payment from the government to have enough money to survive and then be maybe independent in their jobs, they don’t have to live on the street. I think it’s very interesting, and that’s the stuff I’m writing about basically.
David: You also wrote “Eternal Ban” back in 1986, and metal bands are still banned for playing in certain countries due to conservative regulations. How do you think this is still possible in 2019?
Schmier: It’s actually crazy to see this in a modern world, that people can be so conservative. The conservatives are leading this planet and it will never change, I guess. Today I just heard in Germany that CBD oil was now banned from a big market or a big chain, you know. CBD oil is proven to help people when they have cancer, depression and stuff. It’s a thing that’s legal and allowed, but it gets off a store because conservative people complained about it, because it’s made from marijuana. It shows how conservative and two-faced those people are. Look at America and Canada, they have legalized marijuana, because it makes a lot of money for them, for their economy, and this will come hopefully one day too here. All these uptight people will go and fucking die, and the new generation will be an open one, a generation of peace who sees the world as a whole, as a planet that is our survival, our future, the future for your kids. But mankind is too stupid to understand, so songs like “Eternal Ban”, about oppression and the unity of metalheads, will always be an important part of Destruction’s lyrics. Because for me, heavy metal is a thing to break out of the routine, it was like this when I was 16 years old, and it’s like this when I’m fifty, it’s no difference. For me, metal is unity, a community of different people who tries to break out, tries to look over the horizon. And that’s why I’m proud to be a metalhead.
David: It’s really strange for me when I read in the media that they’re still blaming videogames and metal music for inciting to violence, when it’s actually probably the system that makes people go crazy…
Schmier: Yeah, exactly. It’s the system, and it’s the wrong rules of the system that make people go crazy. But you know, they always look for the weak link to accuse and of course that’s the obvious weak link. It’s the easiest solution, so they go for it, you know.
David: Well, moving on to happier things. I’m looking forward to seeing the new lineup live. How has the chemistry onstage worked between you guys so far?
Schmier: You know we’ve been going through a lot of tests. I was scared at the first show, like are we going to bump into each other, how is this going to work because I’m still using three microphones live, so everybody needs certain coordination on stage. Mike and me, we’ve been doing this for a long time together, and Damir understood the band really well, he’s a professional musician. It wasn’t easy because we went from playing only small stages co-headlining with Overkill, where we didn’t have so much space because Overkill had the main setup, then to headlining shows ourselves where we had a whole theater stage for us, and now two huge big stages of the festivals which is like amazing space of course. So, we had to go through all those stages now to find ourselves, but it actually worked out really well, you know we’re all professional. We have a very good chemistry within in the band, it worked great. Prior to the album, when we rehearsed the songs and we wrote the songs, it worked very good too, so this is a very strong line-up and I’m very proud that I can play with those guys. I think it’s the strongest Destruction we’ve had in many years, and I wish we would have gotten a second guitarist earlier but you know, time wasn’t right yet. Now we have done something that was necessary for the future of the band and I’m very glad that the fans also appreciate it.
David: What about the tour. You have announced some dates around Europe for the next few months. Are you planning to tour America, Latin America for example?
Schmier: Yeah, you look like you’re Latin American, aren’t you? I can tell by your name and by your accent that you’re from Latin America …
David: Yeah, I’m from Chile actually, I was going to tell you later… (laughs)
Schmier: Chile, of course. Chile has one of the best metal scenes in the world. Of course we’re gonna go back to Latin America. Actually, we will start this touring schedule right after the summer with Overkill and Flotsam and Jetsam for a second part of the Killfest, because the first Killfest was sold out everywhere, now there’s going to be a second round. Then we’re going to do festivals, we’re coming to Finland playing the Steel Chaos festival in November, which is very exciting for us to come back finally to Finland again. And then next year we’re going to start a whole touring schedule, we will have three parts of a European tour. First will be I think Southern Europe, then we do Central Europe, and then we do East Europe and Scandinavia. And in between those tours we will do Asia, United States and Canada. So, the whole first six months next year we’re gonna be on tour, supporting our new record. And then we will see what’s the next plan, because we’re also holding it back a little bit with the timeframe for next year and 2021, because we still want to do the German Big Four Tour with Kreator, Sodom and Tankard. So, that’s also on the list of priorities for the next year, and hopefully we’re gonna have some good news about this soon. And Latin America is maybe one of the parts of the world where this tour could start, because there’s a lot of thrash fans down there.
David: I was just going to ask you about the German Big Four, if there is any chance to do that as a tour…
Schmier: Yeah, that’s what we want to do. We want to do touring of selected countries, big venues and everybody has to get their timeframe right. We’ve been talking about when it could start, and we all agreed that it’s at the end of 2020. We could do the first shows to test everything, and then in 2021 go full force with this package. Of course, first of all we have to get our touring schedules right but Destruction is ready, basically it’s up to Kreator and up to Mille because they’re doing a new album of Kreator that will come in the beginning of next year, and hopefully we can get this all under one umbrella and make it happen.
David: Cool man, that’s really great news. I’m sure everybody’s gonna be very happy about it…
Schmier: Everybody is excited about it so it will happen. It’s just a matter of time, when and how fast. I try to push everybody because we’re not getting any younger, now we’re all still in good shape, we all did great albums, you know. There will be a new Kreator album coming, a new Sodom album coming next year also, so the time will be right for doing that.
David: As you discovered I’m originally from Chile. You have played many times in Chile, in different cities, not only in Santiago …
Schmier: Yeah, we’ve played all over the country, actually. We’ve played in Copiapó and played crazy places (Valparaiso, Concepción, Temuco). Chile has so much dedication for metal and there’s so many crazy metal fans there, so it’s always amazing to come there and play. We’ll never forget our first time in Chile in 2000, when we came with The Haunted and Immortal, it was total chaos. We had a signing session at this record store, and it was mayhem on the street, you know, the people were freaking out. It’s something we all remember when we look back at the history of Chilean concerts.
David: I understood that you’re still interested in the current metal scene. Could you name a couple of bands that you’re into that you could recommend, or that you think will grow big in the future?
Schmier: That’s very difficult, I think everyone should build their own opinion. I’m interested in the scene. I’m following especially the young thrash bands because that’s the music I dig, the music I play myself, this music I’m good at. I’m following what’s coming out of the young and fresh thrash bands in the last years. Basically, we have played with many of those bands, so I saw all those young age bands on tour with us, so it’s kind of interesting to see their development. Bands like Warbringer, Headlock and Evile, that I’ve seen now for a couple of years already, where are they going, are they gonna try to go away from their style. I mean, Warbringer already tried that and it wasn’t an album that the fans liked so much. It’s interesting for me to see what the young guys are doing now. I’m also producing a young band at the moment, Burning Witches, which is a female heavy metal band from Switzerland that I’m managing and producing also. So, I’m trying to keep up with the young bands, but it’s difficult to say what’s the newest thing of the day because, at the moment, a lot of the pop metal is very famous, you know. Stuff with loads of keyboards and backing tracks, and that’s actually not my kind of metal, neither that metalcore stuff, it’s not my kind of music. So, I’m trying to stick to the old school and see what young bands are supporting and playing the old school, and it’s very interesting to see. But I’m not very influenced by newer bands, I think that would be a big mistake. This has happened to other bands, that you change your own sound and do something new, and the fans will hate it. That’s not my idea, my idea is to defend what we have reached and keep our own style, which Destruction has, and that’s a great gift, of course.
David: I think we covered all my questions. Would you like to send a message to your fans and invite them to listen to “Born to Perish”?
Schmier: Yeah, I hope you like this record, reactions so far have been fantastic. Of course, every record is a new baby, but this one is a very special one for us because we have had a tough last year when Vaaver left, it wasn’t easy for us to continue, we had to find strength in the future of the band. But I’m glad we pulled ourselves together and found two great people to continue this journey, hopefully for another ten plus years, or as long as we can, because we love what we do. And I think you can hear this on the new album, Destruction doesn’t sound like an old band, it sounds like a band that still has fun. And we’re looking forward to coming back on tour, we’re going to be in Finland of course in Steel Chaos Festival, but we will also have shows all over the world in the next couple of months, so we’re looking forward to see you.
David: Thank you so much for your time, it’s been a lot of fun to talk with you. Congratulations on the album!
Schmier: My pleasure, thank you very much my friend. Have a nice week!